Runners are different

Running and Racing: Christopher Goss
August 10, 2000

"Runners. Yeah we're different."  -- This is the tag line of a very popular ad campaign that Adidas has placed in magazines for the past several months. The ads are a hit with runners for a couple of reasons. For starters, the ads are funny — at least to other runners.

In one ad, three runners are running down a very narrow dirt trail along the side of a concrete walking path. From the look on the faces of walkers on the path, you know they are thinking, "Why don't they just use the sidewalk?"

Two runners sprint up a very steep hill next to a San Francisco cable car in another ad. The passengers look on in a combination of bewilderment and amazement.

A couple of the more graphic ads depict activities best left describing simply as "farmer blows" and "bear squats" along with the accompanying looks of disgust from passing pedestrians.

The most recent entry in the series shows a line of customers in a bank. In the middle of the queue, a man in a suit has hoisted a leg onto one of the posts of the dividing rope and is stretching toward his toe.

While runners are different, we're not weird —- really, we're not. Those "different" things that you see us doing are just practical solutions to running problems. Admittedly, we're not always very refined or stylish, but we are certainly pragmatic. There is a reason that runners do those things in the ads. You probably have a runner in your family or maybe as a neighbor, so to better understand us, I offer the following explanations of some of our strange behavior.

Runners will choose a narrow dirt path over a concrete sidewalk simply because it's softer. That is also the reason that you will see runners running on the edge of an asphalt road instead of up on the sidewalk. If you don't believe that asphalt is softer than concrete, bang a hammer on both surfaces for 45 minutes and decide which you'd rather run on.

Runners have a love-hate relationship with hills. There is nothing in our sport that is tougher than a good hill climb. What doesn't kill us, though, makes us stronger, so you'll frequently see us out on some of the taller hills around town. Running hills is a very good way to build strength quickly.

A lot of these hills don't have much of a shoulder, so we have to share the road with drivers wearing the same puzzled looks as those cable car riders. Just as when you see us running on the road off of the sidewalk, please move around us. No need to honk or curse.

There just isn't any easy way around the problem of nature calling. No matter how well you prepare, sometimes your body gets the last word. When you are 10 miles from anywhere, you've got to do what you've got to do. One of the more lasting images for me from the Boston Marathon was not necessarily the hundreds of kids handing out orange slices or the Citgo sign at Mile 25. What struck me was the dozens of runners in the woods just after the start of the race.

Running gives you sore, tight muscles. It's a good soreness, but one that needs to get stretched out. There's no better time to take care of that stretching than while doing something else, whether it is standing in line at the grocery, reviewing a presentation at work, or sitting in church. No need to elbow me, honey, I'm multi-tasking! We need lots of stretching, so anytime there is a wait, you may see us looking for a wall to lean against to stretch out those calves.

Another reason for the appeal of the ads is the validation that runners are different together. Even though most of us have gotten used to seeing scrunched up faces when we tell people that we do this for fun, it is comforting to be reminded that our running brothers and sisters get those funny looks, too.

Yeah. We are different. And proud of it.

Carpe viam.